The Book of Numbers


Numbers do a lot in defining us and our world. Age, height, weight, number of children, annual income, FICO score, T-Bill yield, T-cell count–the sheer NUMBER of numbers to track is staggering.

For years I’ve been going to a special scale at ChrisTown Spectrum Mall. It’s at the GNC Nutrition place, and for a dollar it gives you height, weight, BMI, and body-fat percentage, printing for you a date-stamped receipt. I know through using it that my weight maxed out at 253-plus pounds about six years ago. Yesterday I weighed a cool 179.0–but I took off my shoes and belt and my wonderful daughter Kate put the contents of my pockets in one of the Harkins souvenir cups we were taking to the movies. So it is a truer height and a less-baggage-encumbered weight than my usual.

But I HAD to get to a flat 179, because that was the exact reading I got on the Aim-Safe (family business) company freight scale on one of the most fateful days of my life. It was the 4th of July, 1983, and I’d struggled into my jeans shorts that morning and noted with alarm the muffin-top spillage of love-handle fat over the top of the jeans. Drama queen that I was and am, I did a Scarlett O’Hara “As God is my witness. . .” number, vowing that for a minimum of one year, I would run a minimum of one mile a day without fail, at a pace of nine minutes per mile or faster. I then–foolishly! idiotically!–punished my chubby frame with a 15-mile walk up and down the canal banks, from 19th Ave and Glenrosa to 40th Street and Van Buren and back, without benefit of sunscreen. (Left the canal bank and cut across for the last stretch.)  After taking a several-hours nap, and waking up feeling two weeks dead, I went to the corner of 19th and Indian School for my very first daily mile, stopwatch (“chronometer”) in hand. Reached Camelback and turned the corner to run the equivalent of crossing the street, and the stopwatch clicked in at 8:56:17 or so. And at the very moment I turned back to head for my apartment, downtown Phoenix started celebrating the Glorious 4th with a fireworks show–a sign from Heaven if ever I needed one.

Over the interval between the 4th and my birthday, August 30, my weight went from 179 to 155 and my running mileage went from 7.5/week to 25/week and more. In October I ran the MetroChallenge 10K in less than 54 minutes, and in April of 1984 I ran my fastest-ever 10K, 45:49. That August 19th I and 10,000 others finished the San Francisco Marathon; my finishing time was 4 hours, 8 minutes and change–but it had taken me a minute and a half after the gun (or was it an airhorn? don’t remember) went off just to get to the starting line.

So 179 is a number to conjure with. I hope to be 150, which I consider my ideal latter-life weight, by my 62nd birthday. As illustrated by the slips above, slow and steady WILL win the race, if tempered by sensibility and determination.

Seems silly, doesn’t it, the obsession with numbers? But empires rise and fall by them–the movie THE BIG SHORT is a marvelous demonstration of that.

Best of luck with your own numbers, Friends!


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